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All work, no play? No way!

CSIA staff group 2015

If you haven’t noticed, most of our AMPED blogs are posted in the form of some sort of “How To” or “Helpful Tips” guide. Can you blame us? While we may not be experts on every single topic, many of us do have a lot of experience and we want to share our knowledge with you! I have my own long list of helpful tips and lessons-learned that I’d like to share, but those lists can wait for now. I’d like to share a different aspect of our work with our clients.

It’s been two weeks since we wrapped up the CSIA Executive Conference in Washington, D.C., an annual event held each year at the end of April. It was a long week filled with early mornings and late nights, leaving us staff members in a bit of a blur. But now that things have settled down, I am able to look back and truly appreciate just how rewarding (and fun!) these events can be. So, instead of sharing thoughts on how to improve your mobile app, complete follow-up efficiently, etc., I’d like to share my favorite things about being onsite instead.

First, I love the face-to-face contact. It’s so fun to see old friends while also getting the chance to meet new people. We spend the majority of our time communicating with members via email or phone so it’s extra special to see them in-person. I’ve found that the members really enjoy this aspect of the meeting as well. We get a lot of “Oh! You’re the one I’ve been emailing all week – nice to meet you!”

Second, I find it exciting to learn more about the various topics that are of interest to our members. As staff, we aren’t necessarily experts on the industry side of things for our clients and so we appreciate the opportunity to be able to learn more through the educational programming. Sure, we are busy running the logistics of the meeting, but every once in a while we get the chance to pop into a session or two. When we have this opportunity, I think we’re able to better understand and appreciate the challenges our members are facing.

Lastly, it’s so fun to see all of our hard work come together. We spend almost a year preparing for these annual meetings and to be honest, it can get exhausting. The hard work really becomes worth it when we get to see it all come together and, more importantly, when we get to see the attendees enjoy the meeting.

We spend a lot of time figuring out how to improve ourselves and our meetings – what can we say, we’re perfectionists! But sometimes it’s important to just enjoy and reflect on all of the good things. Plus, we have to enjoy the results of our work while we can since there is only a small window to do so. It’s only a few days after the meeting before we’re on to planning the next!

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Distant co-workers: Making "other side of the globe" feel like "in the next room"

distant coworkers

I’m a huge fan of face-to-face interaction with my colleagues. In fact, you can often find me wandering around, popping into a colleague’s office looking for help with a work-related item or maybe just seeing what’s up for lunch. I find these daily exchanges to be crucial for common understanding, teamwork and, most of all, efficiency. So, what happens when you’re limited with your opportunities to speak in-person to a team member? Will a project take longer to complete? Will someone be left on their own to figure it out?

I personally had these concerns a year ago when it became my responsibility to work closely with a client’s Latin American coordinator, located in Mexico. The thought of collaborating, tackling tasks, and setting goals with someone more than 100 feet away was a little frightening for me. But, with a year of check-in calls and virtual meetings under my belt, I think I’ve almost got it down. Of course there are always new challenges that arise and with that more to learn. But until then, I’ve learned to live by the following rules in order to ensure success when working with someone in another region of the world.

Schedule weekly check-ins
With distance as a factor that naturally limits a great deal of communication, I’ve found that it is essential to always be on the same page. Even if there is no new business to discuss, it’s always a good idea to just check-in. I also recommend that the agenda for these meetings follow a similar pattern. First, check on the status of any existing projects. Next, allow some time to ask/answer questions. Lastly, connect on any new business and tasks that need to be completed. Following this agenda will establish clear expectations.

Keep consistency but allow some flexibility
There are so many differences to consider in schedules, particularly when you’re working with someone from a different region of the world. Time zones, holidays, cultural traditions, and much more can affect one’s availability. Be mindful of this and accept that at times it’s best to reschedule.

Get feedback from one another
Whether you’re a pro at managing relationships outside of the office or it’s something entirely new to you, receiving feedback from your coworker is incredibly important. Just as you notice different work styles with the colleagues around you, the same can be said for someone you work with remotely. It’s important to learn if that person responds well to certain expectations. Do they appreciate more guidance or less? Are there certain projects that they prefer to work on over the phone or will email suffice? These types of considerations vary from person to person and it’s crucial to understand these preferences in order to accomplish the maximum amount of production.

Encourage collaboration with others in the office
It’s easy to feel isolated when you work remotely and I’m guessing it’s quite common to feel disconnected with a handful of employees in the office. Feeling welcome and comfortable with a team of colleagues is incredibly important to someone’s success. In my situation, I work very closely with the Latin American coordinator, whereas many of my colleagues are not expected to. I’ve found that connecting them on various projects creates a sense of teamwork that would otherwise be difficult to feel when you’re 2,000 miles away.

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Out of the office? I got your back!

animals I got your back

Traveling outside of the office is not a foreign concept in our line of work at AMPED. From board meetings to site visits, you can usually find at least one of our staff members traveling around the country at any point throughout the year. While the majority of these trips are quick, sometimes our “out of office” replies are scheduled for a much longer period of time. During these longer meetings, I’ve come to learn that supporting your colleagues while they are out of the office and vice versa is crucial. 

Just this week, half of our AMPED team is in Boston, Mass. organizing an 8,000-attendee conference. With a meeting of this capacity, our team certainly has their hands full. There’s a lot to consider, both with this client’s meeting and our other clients who still deserve our attention. With so much on the line, how does our office make everything run so smoothly?

The first step is to make sure that everyone is knowledgeable about the event that is taking place. There’s a very high chance that those who are most familiar with the event are onsite and may not be available to answer emails or phone calls. So it’s important that those in the office know enough about the meeting to respond to any questions that may come up. It’s typical to have phone calls pour in after the launch of the meeting. Everyone must be prepared to answer questions like, “Can I still register onsite?” or “Where can I find parking?”

One way to educate the entire staff is to hold a staff meeting – something that AMPED President and Owner Lynda Patterson did one week prior to our event in Boston. A high-level overview was provided, as well as detailed instructions on where staff could locate valuable meeting information. This type of planning makes it easier on all of those involved – onsite staff aren’t distracted with minor questions and staff at headquarters aren’t tirelessly searching for answers.

It’s also important that we provide support to our colleagues and their other projects and clients while they are out of the office. At AMPED, we are committed to providing ongoing attention to all our clients. Just because there is a big meeting taking place for one client, doesn’t mean our other clients take a backseat. We accomplish this by shifting some work around in the short-term so that all of our bases are covered. Adhering to deadlines, responding to emails and remaining on top of things are always a priority — meeting or no meeting. Before our colleagues leave, it’s essential that we meet with those who need your assistance while they are away and create a list of assignments that must be completed. Reviewing and prioritizing the assignments will ensure that there is a complete understanding of expectations. It’s also a good idea to check in periodically with your colleague while they are out of office.

Traveling out of the office for business can be exhausting. With flights to catch, meetings to coordinate and endless logistics to consider, there’s always a lot on one’s mind. It’s important that you’re able to focus and to give it everything you have onsite. You don’t need these important moments to be shadowed with worry as you wonder what’s going on back at the office or what your email looks like. Depend on your colleagues – they have your back! At least I know mine do.

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Angelou quotes inspire in life and work

MayaAngelouQUOTEInspirational quotes: We’ve heard our teachers recite them, we’ve shared them in presentations and we even read them in signature lines of emails. To be honest, I actually considered using a quote to begin this blog. Remember when we all learned in middle school English to use a famous quote or thought to begin our papers? I sure do and, admittedly, I carry that with me to this day.

But beyond these typical (and often forced) encounters, inspirational quotes have never really been my thing. I’m not the type to print out a quote and tape it to my mirror or anything. However, with the passing of Maya Angelou, I was reminded of the beautiful and motivational thoughts that she shared with us during her lifetime. A few of her famous quotes left a lasting impression on me and because of this, I felt I should share them with others. In some way, each quote is applicable to one’s personal life, but also has implications in our professional life. Here are three of my favorite quotes shared by Maya that have inspired me to be better, particularly at my job:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”
Don’t we all wish it could be this simple? It’s certainly one of those “easier said than done” phrases to live by. Too often we encounter projects, clients, or even coworkers who we don’t like, and I hate to say it, but the chances that you’ll continue to run into these things are pretty high. Unfortunately, because it’s your job on the line, you can’t really “change it.” So change your attitude. You’re only wasting energy by focusing on the “I hate this” and “I wish it were some other way” thoughts. Instead try finding the positives. Maybe you’re learning a lot or perhaps you’ve found that you’re really good at something. Focus on that instead. I promise you can find something to enjoy in every situation!

“Nothing will work unless you do”
This quote rings particularly loud in my ears. We Millennials are often characterized as having a sense of entitlement, carrying around the idea that we deserve better, if not the best. While I have my own opinions on the truth of that accusation, I think there’s no denying that we could all use a good reminder that to get what you want you have to work hard. I like this one because it’s easy to understand. No interpretations or clarifications necessary – just work hard!

“We encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated”
Now this one is pretty difficult (or nearly impossible if you’re anything like me) to follow. Many of us strive to be the best at what we do and leave no room for failure. Unfortunately, failure, at some point, is inevitable. I know you may think your superman or superwoman, but trust me it will happen. Whether it is a small mess-up or big mistake, chances are you’ll encounter some sort of defeat (probably more than once) in your career. What’s important to remember is that you can’t let these defeats get the best of you. Yes, it’s important to reflect upon them so that you can lessen the chances they’ll occur again, but as soon as you’ve done that – move on! Don’t hang on to any sour feelings and don’t think that you can’t get past it. Focus your energy on how you can improve the next time around and on what you learned from the experience. By doing this, you’ll only get stronger.

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A look back at 2013: Surviving my first year in the “real” world

2013 – The year known for the birth of Prince George, the premier of Breaking Bad’s series finale and that time Miley Cyrus may have lost her mind. While each of these moments may have left a lasting impression on us in their own way, what about the more important impressions made? What are the most memorable moments of 2013 in your own life? For me, starting my first full-time job out of college definitely ranks pretty high. Both success and struggles accompanied me on this journey into the professional world. With each success I learned something and with each struggle I learned even more. So what are the most important things that I learned my first year here at AMPED?

Step away from your computer and desk. Our society is completely captivated with technology. We find ourselves staring at some sort of device for hours at a time! That’s crazy, if you think about it. Yes, emailing and the vast variety of different platforms we work in are an important use of our time; however, it is just as important to take a step away and use “old school” communication – that is, talking to someone in-person. Popping into a colleague’s office to ask a question, share an idea or to simply say hello not only keeps your mind stimulated but also fosters a great dynamic in the office. Even as technology continues to grow and perform the previously unthinkable, it will never be able to provide the organic experience that face-to-face interactions provide. Plus, a little exercise hopping from office to office never hurt anyone either.

Take advantage of the seasoned veterans around you. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but you don’t know everything. In fact, not knowing much of anything in your first few years with a company is much more likely. This is not to say you’re not a capable, intelligent employee, it just means that there is always something more to learn. There may be different communication styles, platforms, formats, templates, roles – the list can go on and on – than what you are used to.Take the time to learn from those around you. Your colleagues provide real-life perspective and experience, something a textbook or online resource can’t truly provide. They are knowledgeable not only of the specifics within the company you work for, but also bring a lot to the table when it comes to general professional experience. Don’t let an opportunity to learn from these coworkers pass you by. And hey, this one fits in nicely with stepping away from your computer desk doesn’t it? Get over to your coworker’s office and get some advice! 

Get to know yourself and find out where your talents lie. Here at AMPED we “wear many hats,” so to say. Luckily for me, this means that I’m given the amazing opportunity to explore different aspects of association management each and every day. From meeting coordination, budget planning, marketing and strategic planning – I get to experience it all. It’s so important to give yourself an opportunity to discover what it is that you do best and more importantly, what you enjoy doing the most. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to dabble in multiple departments, you can still learn more about yourself and realize all that you have to offer. You may be in a graphic design role, but also rock at speaking in front others and leading discussions. Take initiative and lead the next marketing meeting!

It may seem as though these lessons strictly apply to a “beginner,” but this is far from true. Each lesson is important for all levels of professionals. Are you the seasoned veteran in the office? See what you can learn from new employees – they may have ideas that you’ve never considered before! Already have a good feel for where your talents lie? Keep challenging yourself! Find out how you can perfect those talents even more and perhaps discover new ones.

 

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Interviews and earthquakes: AMPED takes flight for global mission

ISA Mexico med rez

“Going global” has become quite the popular phrase and it’s a trend that cannot be ignored. With increasing resources to expand an organization’s reach to countries around the world, globalization is inevitable to stay relevant. But going global is about more than serving members from other countries and hosting international meetings. In order to truly identify as a global organization, you need to tailor your operations to a specific region. What exactly does this mean? It means that in order to really understand the members in a region, you need to fully comprehend the characteristics that define that particular region. Such characteristics include culture, language, law, technology and economics. Without a thorough understanding of these, it would be nearly impossible to serve members in a way that is truly beneficial to them.

As the global coordinator for one of AMPED’s international clients, I can certainly appreciate the various characteristics that define different regions around the world and make them distinctive; however, I’m not qualified to know each and every unique characteristic. What our client, the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA), needed in the Latin American region was someone who spoke the language and could provide the expertise that AMPED was not capable of providing as a company based in the United States. With that goal in mind, AMPED President and Owner Lynda Patterson and I were off to Mexico to find our first regional coordinator in Latin America.

At first, traveling to Mexico City to conduct job interviews for what would be a part-time contractor may have seemed excessive. With the invention of Skype, why were we going to such lengths? Actually, we did hold Skype interviews initially; however, after one failed attempt to hire outside of the States based on a Skype meeting, we knew interviewing candidates in person was the right way to go. Not only did the in-person interviews prove our initial impressions wrong (the individuals we liked on Skype were not nearly as impressive in person, and vice versa), we also had the opportunity to see the candidates interact firsthand at an industry expo show held in Mexico City during our stay.

It was at the expo that I was reminded how important it was to be on location in Mexico. It was so exciting to see the responses by attendees and other exhibitors when they were told CSIA was opening an office in Mexico City. This was an important step toward becoming a global organization – to be genuinely perceived as a part of that country/nation/region.

It also gave prospective members confidence in our client’s organization. In fact, our time spent at the show concluded with some encouraging words by a prospective member and fellow exhibitor who said, “It’s unfortunate in Mexico that there are so many brilliant engineers who don’t have the resources they need to run a successful business.” With CSIA’s presence and dedication to providing custom-tailored benefits and resources in the region, these promising companies can take the next step toward improving themselves and increasing their success.

I suppose there could have been easier ways to accomplish this first step toward “going global,” but at AMPED we are committed to going the extra mile (literally) to assure quality and confidence in our team – even if it means traveling across borders or surviving earthquakes. (Yes, you read that right – there was an earthquake when we were there!) The success of this trip definitely gives CSIA encouragement and builds excitement to keep moving forward to become a global force worldwide.

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